Three-hundred and twenty-three senior executives from across the nutrition industry have flocked to Dana Point, Calif. for the 12th annual NBJ Summit to network, learn, meet new business partners, meet old business partners, shake hands, sip cocktails, sit on boats, and gaze thoughtfully at the cool blue ocean from the elegant balconies of the St. Regis Hotel. And I get to tag along.
The beauty of the NBJ Summit is that it combines the best of executive pastimes—regattas, golf, and cocktail hours—with some of the most sterling, thoughtful content a conference can offer. This union of physical relaxation with intellectual energy is a refreshing breath for the industry’s busiest bees.
Revolution in the air
The health revolution, that is. The nutrition industry had one of its best growth years in history last year, and it’s increasingly obvious that health & wellness is the wave of the future. Canaccord Genuity’s Rodney Clarke summed it up well with a slide depicting the Healthy Living Index—a market index created by Canaccord that tracks public companies in the nutrition space—vastly outpacing all other market indices. “Something is happening here,” he said.
Everyone has brought out their crystal balls to look into the future. It looks like pharma, Summit co-chairman Tom Aarts has argued. In the next three to five years, he suggests, 40 percent of the supplement market will be owned by pharmaceutical companies. That means more science, more legitimacy, more mass market, and more consolidation. Is it a good or bad thing? You decide.
People are talking about winds shifting on the regulatory side as well. FDA is taking swifter and tougher action against bad players. “We have no new statutory authority,” said Daniel Fabricant, head of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs. “But we’re doing more with what we have on the books. And we’ll keep doing more with what we have on the books as long as I’m here.”
Also, more people are starting to question the flexibility of DSHEA—the legislation that governs dietary supplements—for adequately representing a food product that is moving increasingly toward medicine. It’s a Pandora’s box that few are ready to open. But here at the St. Regis, industry folks have the opportunity to lift their heads out of the daily grind to think hard about the future of this market.
The Summit gives this industry a forum—a salon, even—to discuss change, disruption, and opportunity, and how best to adapt and move forward. This is where change is made, or at least considered.